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NCJ Number
American Jail Association Volume: 10 Issue: 48 Dated: (May 19, 1993) Pages: 89-94
R Ward
Date Published
6 pages
This article traces the history of the U.S. Army Police Corps and it use of jails from the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, to the eve of World War I.
The history of jails in the Army closely follows the history of the Army's Police Corps. Like their civilian counterparts, the army police needed jails and a major prison to lock up military offenders and, in time of war, enemy prisoners of war. The first Provost Officer was assigned to the Continental Army in 1775 to enforce military discipline and control prisoners of war. As the war neared its end, the Provost Corps was abolished. Under the penal code established in 1806 under the Articles of War, the Army's correctional policy was dominated by the belief that only severe punishment could maintain discipline. Penalties included death, branding and tattooing, and flogging. During the War of 1812 and Mexican War, the functions performed by modern military police were ignored by Congress, since politicians were wary of a strong military and did little to provide for an adequate army or navy. The outbreak of the Civil War led to the creation of an organized military police corps; the War Department established the Provost Marshal Corps in September 1861. No duties or specialized training were specified. Prior to 1875 the Army placed prisoners with short sentences in post guardhouses and long- termers in State prisons. Most guardhouses were single rooms structured to make life as difficult as possible; recreational, educational, and correctional programs did not exist. During the Spanish-American War (1898-1900), military police functions were still temporary assignment duty rather than a permanently assigned and trained corps. After the Spanish-American War, the Army obtained funds to remodel Fort Leavenworth and to reopen it as an Army prison; at approximately the same time, the Army opened a Pacific branch of the prison on Alcatraz Island. The new Army corrections program was designed to improve the individual mentally, morally, and physically.